Nonprofit drops out of race

CITY HALL — A youth-oriented nonprofit has withdrawn its federal block grant application, citing burdensome reporting requirements, two weeks before a city commission was to consider it and 19 other funding requests.

HASK Armenian American Community Center also returned the $5,000 in federal block grants allotted to it last year, despite a recommendation from the Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee to not fund its $37,100 request.

“It’s very, very unusual that a nonprofit cancels their funding application,” said Jess Duran, assistant director of the Community Development and Housing Department.

The City Council, which has the final say on how the block grants are divided among local nonprofits, lowered the recommended funding allotments in April for other agencies to allow room for the $5,000 grant to HASK’s Media For You program, which provides new media mentoring and training for low-income youth.

But the nonprofit could not afford the city’s tighter insurance requirements, and meeting the strict federal reporting requirements attached to the funding was too burdensome, HASK administrators said.

The morass prompted the organization to withdraw its $37,100 application for next fiscal year in a Jan. 22 letter to the city, HASK Executive Director Steven Abramian said.

“I think it came to the point where all of us realized that this type of funding just isn’t cost-effective for smaller players like us,” he said.

HASK will instead pursue other fundraising efforts to make up the difference and support next year’s programming, Abramian said.

The withdrawal vindicated the advisory committee’s original assessment last year that HASK was too nascent an organization to keep up with the vigorous reporting requirements, and that a few thousand dollars wouldn’t do any good since prerequisites for the funds are often as, if not more, expensive, Chairman Zareh Amirian said.

“It’s not just about how vital we think the services are,” he said.

“It means nothing if they can’t handle the mandatory reporting and insurance requirements that are put forth by the government. . . . Last year, politics got in the way.”

As the faltering economy continues to put more pressure on social service agencies in terms of demand and resources, City Council members have said that this time around, greater consideration would be given to organizations that provide “essential” services — housing, food, bill help and child care.

In December, Glendale Healthy Kids and Homenetmen Glendale Ararat Chapter announced they would not pursue federal block grants to free up more money for other groups that are “desperate” for additional resources.

With HASK’s exit, the applicant pool for a projected $480,000 in allotments from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development now stands at 19. Combined, their requests total more than $1 million.

The total pot of money could increase significantly if earmarks for more block grants are made in President Obama’s upcoming stimulus package, Duran said.

The advisory committee is scheduled to hold public interviews Monday for all 19 applicants before formulating its recommendations.

That list is scheduled for City Council review March 24.


 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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